07 November 2007

Scientists Under Siege

On behalf of my real job, I just got done briefing a small delegation of research and development analysts from a certain European country. In honor of their nationality, I considered doing the whole thing in the accent of a certain governor. They were nice folks, so I'm glad I didn't. Plus, I only had a day's notice, so I didn't have time to magic up a costume.

In other news, 12 Bangladeshi academics and an unknown number of students have been arrested, jailed, and allegedly tortured as of 5 November 2007.

These professors were arrested and jailed in August 2007 and remain in custody to this day. The arrests were made by a Joint Task Force under the direction of the Director General Forces Intelligence (DGFI), the central intelligence agency of the Bangladeshi armed services, in connection with student protests, and the arrested academics have not been charged with any crime.

And why is this happening? Well, according to Amnesty International (more background):

On 11 January President Ijuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency after weeks of violence over the date of elections and electoral reforms between supporters of the former ruling coalition and supporters of parties opposing them. Elections scheduled for 22 January were postponed indefinitely and a new civilian caretaker government, backed by the army, sworn in. Under the state of emergency, political rallies
are banned, and freedom of expression severely restricted.

Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed by the RAB, a paramilitary police force whose members are drawn from the army and police, set up in March 2004. Government sources say the deaths have been caused by crossfire between RAB agents and suspected criminals, but there are persistent reports that the deaths have been deliberate killings by the RAB. Despite this, no RAB agents have ever been brought to justice for any of the killings.

The caretaker government like previous governments in Bangladesh has failed to protect people against army and RAB excesses, or to bring any of their personnel to justice for abusing human rights.

Now, I haven't seen anything in the mainstream press about this latest incident, which is why I'm posting it. I'm listing the names of the professors below, as well as the contact details of the Bangladeshi Ambassador to the US. I think it's crucial that the Bangladeshi government know that they are being watched by the international community.

Even if you don't want to do anything about it, please do take a moment to read about, or even just think about, what they're going through. I know I'd appreciate it if I were in their shoes.

The 12 Imprisoned Professors

Professor Anwar Hossain, Dean, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dhaka University

Professor Harunor-Rashid, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science, Dhaka University

Professor Sadrul Amin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Departmentof English, Dhaka University

Professor Neem Chandra Bhoumik, Department of Applied Physics, Dhaka University

Professor Saidur Rahman Khan, Former Vice-Chancellor of Rajshahi University

Professor Abdus Sobhan, Department of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, Rajshahi University

Professor Moloy Kumar Bhowmik, Department of Management, Rajshahi University

Professor Abdullah Al Mamun, Department of English and Department of Mass Communications, Rajshahi University

Professor Selim Reza Newton, Department of Mass Communications, Rajshahi University

Professor Dulal Chandra Biswas, Department of Mass Communications, Rajshahi University

Professor Sabbir Sattar Tapu, Department of Geology and Mining, Rajshahi University

Professor Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan Sajal, Department of Geology and Mining, Rajshahi University

The Bangladeshi Ambassador to the US

His Excellency M. Humayun Kabir
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Embassy of Bangladesh
3510 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: (202) 244-7830 or 2771
Telephone : (202) - 244 - 0183, or 7248, or 7216, or 3830

23 October 2007

Wonk Market

What? A place where wonks go to date? No, it's a politically-active farmer's market, naturally.
A message from FRESHFARM Markets (the organizers of the DuPont Circle
farmers market):

Where the 2007 Farm Bill Stands at This Time

In an effort to keep you updated on the Farm Bill, we wanted to let
you know that after months of negotiations, the Senate Committee on
will be debating and amending the Farm Bill tomorrow
morning (Wednesday, October 24 at 10:00 am ). There are some wins for
local, sustainable, organic food and farming, but there are also some
things still in jeopardy or underfunded. Two national organizations -
The Community Food Security Coalition and the Sustainable Agriculture
- recently put out updates with summaries of what is in the
current draft and these can be found respectively at [here] and [here].

The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has also just released an Action
alert on amendments that are likely to come up tomorrow and we
encourage you to review the information and take action. The action
alert can be accessed at: [here]

FRESHFARM Markets supports all components of the Farm Bill that
promote sustainable agriculture and the continued livelihood of small
and mid-sized farmers and producers. The current Senate Farm Bill
contains many provisions that benefit farmers markets and consumers;
we want to make our customers aware of ways that they can have an
impact on the Farm Bill and their food system.
I love this town.

01 October 2007

Civility versus Practicality

It doesn't take much for me to feel completely behind the times. I recently got an email from my buddy Sushil regarding Iran, Columbia University, and whole group of Iranian academics (whose identities I've been unable to find). It took me quite a while to figure out what went on. Let's see if I can summarize.

On 24 September Iranian President M. Ahmadinejad was invited by Columbia University to speak on their campus during his recent visit to the US. President of Columbia U., L. Bollinger, during his introduction of Ahmadinejad, made many pointed comments and questions about the behavior of Ahmadinejad and the current Iranian administration. In response, Ahmadinejad gave his prepared remarks and half-answered questions from Bollinger and Columbia students. Inter alia, he mentioned some offense taken at such harsh treatment for a guest of the university.

The next day, a group of Iranian academics issued an open letter to Bollinger, taking offense at Ahmadinejad's inhospitable treatment, and including several pointed questions for Bollinger.


Having (finally) read through Bollinger's comments as well as Ahmadinejad's speech and Q&A, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed with the Iranians' letter in response. Bollinger probably shouldn't have been as pointed in his opening comments:
I am only a professor, who is also a university president, and today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.
but given the forum constraints and those on Ahmadinejad's time, I think the timing of the comments before Ahmadinejad's speech was reasonable. The content and questions in Bollinger's speech to Ahmadinejad were also quite reasonable and relevant, given that it was a university president talking to a head of state. The head of state (Ahmadinejad) should be expected to answer for the actions of his government, especially those actions during his term in office.

Ahmadinejad's response to questions from Bollinger and others was fairly dodgy:
QUESTION: Mr. President, another student asks -- Iranian women are now denied basic human rights and your government has imposed draconian punishments, including execution on Iranian citizens who are homosexuals. Why are you doing those things?

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Freedoms in Iran are genuine, true freedoms. Iranian people are free. Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom.

We have two deputy -- two vice presidents that are female, at the highest levels of specialty, specialized fields. In our parliament and our government and our universities, they're present. In our biotechnological fields, our technological fields, there are hundreds of women scientists that are active -- in the political realm as well.

It's not -- it's wrong for some governments, when they disagree with another government, to, sort of, try to spread lies that distort the full truth.

Our nation is free. It has the highest level of participation in elections, in Iran. Eighty percent, ninety percent of the people turn out for votes during the elections, half of which, over half of which are women. So how can we say that women are not free? Is that the entire truth?

But as for the executions, I'd like to raise two questions. If someone comes and establishes a network for illicit drug trafficking that affects the youth in Iran, Turkey, Europe, the United States, by introducing these illicit drugs and destroys them, would you ever reward them?

People who lead the lives -- cause the deterioration of the lives of hundreds of millions of youth around the world, including in Iran, can we have any sympathy to them? Don't you have capital punishment in the United States? You do, too.


AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In Iran, too, there's capital punishment for illicit drug traffickers, for people who violated the rights of people. If somebody takes up a gun, goes into a house, kills a group of people there, and then tries to take ransom, how would you confront them in Iran -- or in the United States? Would you reward them? Can a physician allow microbes symbolically speaking to spread across a nation?

We have laws. People who violate the public rights of the people by using guns, killing people, creating insecurity, sells drugs, distribute drugs at a high level are sentenced to execution in Iran.

And some of these punishments, very few, are carried in the public eye, before the public eye. It's a law, based on democratic principles. You use injections and microbes to kill these people, and they, they're executed or they're hung. But the end result is killing.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the question isn't about criminal and drug smugglers. The question was about sexual preference and women.


AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country.


We don't have that in our country.


AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.


But, as for women, maybe you think that being a woman is a crime. It's not a crime to be a woman.

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Women are the best creatures created by God. They represent the kindness, the beauty that God instills in them. Women are respected in Iran. In Iran, every family who is given a girl -- is given -- in every Iranian family who has a girl, they are 10 times happier than having a son. Women are respected more than men are.

They are exempt from many responsibilities. Many of the legal responsibilities rest on the shoulders of men in our society because of the respect, culturally given, to women, to the future mothers. In Iranian culture, men and sons and girls constantly kiss the hands of their mothers as a sign of respect, respect for women. And we are proud of this culture.
The response letter to Bollinger makes a classic logical fallacy (which I call monolithicity, because I don't know the real word). That is, it treats all of America as one unit, so instead of addressing questions regarding US Government behavior to the US Government, it addresses them to an American university president (Bollinger):
You asked the president approximately ten questions. Allow us to ask you ten of our own questions in the hope that your response will help clear the atmosphere of misunderstanding and distrust between our two countries and reveal the truth.

1- Why did the US media put you under so much pressure to prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad from delivering his speech at Columbia University? And why have American TV networks been broadcasting hours of news reports insulting our president while refusing to allow him the opportunity to respond? Is this not against the principle of freedom of speech?

2- Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow the Iran's national government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah's dictatorship?

3- Why did the US support the blood-thirsty dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, considering his reckless use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers defending their land and even against his own people?

4- Why is the US putting pressure on the government elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza instead of officially recognizing it? And why does it oppose Iran 's proposal to resolve the 60-year-old Palestinian issue through a general referendum?
Just because the Bush administration has committed (is committing) atrocities doesn't make Iran's (ongoing) human rights violations any more justified. The vast majority (9 out of 10, I think) of their questions should go to the Bush administration, not to Bollinger.

Was Bollinger rude? Yeah, probably. But the balance of power still favored the head of state versus the university president. Those of us outside of power should never hesitate to speak truth to power for fear of seeming rude. There are bounds of civility, but Bollinger did not break them.

21 September 2007

College ain't what it used to be

As some of you may have heard, some poor, misguided souls have put me in charge of a classroom. So now I'm what passes for an adjunct professor around here.
Yeah, it's that bad.

I'd thought that, since I'd been away from campus for so long, I would be amazed at the utility of teaching technology. Well, I am. But not in a good way.

Between the grading unit crashing and the entire data system needing to be purged once a day, I had no choice but to give up on (AU's implementation of) the Blackboard™ classroom management system.

Among the suite of tools I'm using to replace BB is Google Groups. When I explained to the class that I wanted to have the ability to instantly email them announcements and so on, one student actually protested that her inbox was too full already.

She had a point, and this hints at a larger problem, the real reason for tonight's post. You see, I'm also a Inbox Abuser. But I am now recovering, with a little help from my friends.

For my money, no one frames the evils of Inbox Abuse better than Merlin Mann. Here you go, video junkies:

18 September 2007

Tin-Foil Hat Guys: Right All Along?

See, I told you privacy was dead! But no, you had to hear it from the NSA:

Washington D.C., September 14, 2007 - Today the National Security Archive publishes a collection of documents concerning the use of U.S. reconnaissance satellites to collect data on targets within the United States over the last four decades. This new publication follows the August 15, 2007, revelation in the Wall Street Journal that the United States is planning to expand the use of reconnaissance satellites over the United States in support of civil agencies (those outside of the Defense Department and Intelligence Community) in response to recommendations by an independent study group.

Obtained primarily through the Freedom of Information Act and archival research, the declassified documents published today describe a number of uses for which U.S. reconnaissance satellites have been employed, including evaluation of satellite performance, mapping, disaster relief, and assistance to Environmental Protection Agency investigations.

What I find most interesting is the subtle way that transparency activists and privacy activists are seeing common ground. Sure, this happened with the Privacy Act, but the PA only served to perpetuate the illusion of privacy.

Someday I hope we will all come to terms with the death of privacy, and figure out how to live in a world without the expectation -- much like folks in rural areas have lived for some time.

27 August 2007

Science, Racism, and Television: Three Great Tastes...

I got the message below forwarded to me, recently.

Thank you so much for your cooperation. Here is a quick description of the job with a few requirements:

JWM Productions is casting a host for a series on environmental science geared towards middle and high school students. We're open to auditioning anyone with a passion for environmental science, not just actors. You must meet the following qualifications, though. This is a PAID position!
Be non-union
Be available to shoot in October
Appear to be between the ages of 20-40
Be African-American
Know how to deliver a line with sincerity and authority
Know your lines verbatim but be able to learn new ones on a dime if we change the script
Be able to communicate authoritatively but still engage your audience
Non-American accents are a plus but not necessary, we're open to international flair.
An understanding of environmental science is another plus
Teaching or education background yet another plus

Please send resumes and headshots to No phone calls please!

Feel free to relay this information to Carl Menanger. Also, if you could forward this to anyone you might know who is involved with the university's science departments and would know students who might be interested, that would be great.
I guess I'm not "urban" enough. Or maybe not enough flair.

This reminds me of that Saturday Night Live line:
Are you black? Do you want your own T.V. show? Welcome to the W.B.!
But it is a paying gig, after all. Spread the word!

25 August 2007

Stationed Overseas? Sweet!

I just found out that the Justice Department has been forcing states to support the voting rights of overseas military personnel - and supporting instant runoff voting (IRV) in the process. What's IRV? According to the news article:
With [IRV], if no candidate receives a majority of the votes based on voters’ first choices, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The votes are then recalculated using the second choices of voters who originally favored the eliminated candidate. This process is repeated until a candidate receives a majority.
But why read about it, when you can watch a video?

The states affected so far - Arkansas, Louisiana, and South Carolina - have committed to sending IRV ballots to their overseas military voters to assist in elections where there may be runoffs.

If they have it this sweet, I can't wait 'til we're all so privileged! Yay, Selective Service!

20 August 2007

A bit of old news, and farewell to a friend

Lucky for you, this one's short. In the January newsletter of the Forum on Physics and Society of the American Physical Society appeared this article by Wolfgang Panofsky. The most interesting bit, in my opinion, was this graph associated with his statement:

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, a new state has emerged as a nuclear weapons power roughly once every 5 years, as indicated in Figure 1.

Makes one wonder what all the fuss is about. WP then goes on to look at three potentially nuclear weapon states, Iran, Brazil and Japan, in some detail. He attempts to tease out the difference between the technical capability for a non-nuclear state to develop nuclear weapons and the intent for one to do so.

Also, I ran into my fourth roommate this morning. I see him so rarely I forget about him altogether. I wonder if he or any of his cousins will greet me in my move to Glover Park?

At least it'll be cleaner. He has a habit of leaving his shoes everywhere.

18 August 2007

In space, no one can point toward Mecca...

I ran across two recent articles on Islam and science that I'll share today. The first is a interview with Taner Edis, Turkish-American physicist, on the current interaction of Islam and science. He draws special attention to the oft-cited observation that the Muslim world was once a leader in the arts and sciences (think al-gebra and al-gorithm as two examples) in his recent book An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam.

The second is an article in Physics Today by Pakistani physicist Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, with actual data on scientific progress in the Muslim world.

(Note the audacity of physicists. They feel perfectly comfortable commenting on religion, history, and social sciences, even to the point of writing articles and books well outside their fields. Makes a fellow geek proud.)

TE and PAH both recognize the fundamental contradiction, not limited to the Muslim world, between the desire for the use and conveniences of state-of-the-art technology, and the lack of institutional support - educational, cultural, or even legal - of the domestic development of those technologies. "Pakistan," says PAH, "has produced only eight patents in the past 43 years."

Particularly tragic is the effect the Islamic scientific legacy of the Dark Ages has on today's Muslim culture. The net effect, says TE, is a rearward-looking posture, even in scientific research. (Fellow Southerners will recognize echoes of this in the obsession with the War of Northern Aggression.) On medieval Islamic science, TE continues:

They did some very interesting things in medicine and optics. But all of this was mixed in with astrology and alchemy and what today we would consider dead ends. This was not thinking of nature mechanistically, as happened in the scientific revolution in Europe, but in almost an occult sense.
As opposed to Europe, where
[y]ou had a three-way interplay between science, orthodox religion and more occult religious alternatives. You could have interesting alliances. These end up being separated through historical accident -- I don't see anything special about Western Christianity that sets it apart from Islam -- and they go their separate ways. This type of separation never really happened in the Muslim Middle East.

In the Western world, the institution of law achieved a kind of autonomy from religion early on. Some historians argue that this was really a precursor to science achieving autonomy as well. In the Muslim world, law was never entirely disentangled from religion. Islamic culture has not been as supportive of intellectual independence for different areas of life.

This I find very intriguing. What we see in the U.S. is a swaying back from, perhaps a hiccup in, the growth of autonomy of law from religion. But that's where the similarity ends, right? Nope, says TE:

In the last 20 years, we've seen creationism appearing in Turkey's official science textbooks that are taught in high schools.


The Turkish creationists have taken the initiative and gotten in touch with organizations like the Institute for Creation Research in California. And what they've taken from American creationists are basically ideas and strategies for how to get creationism into textbooks. So Islamic creationism is an indigenous movement which is inspired by some aspects of Western creationism.

Am I the only one that finds that creepy?

But what does the current data say? First, for the inputs to science, PAH cites funding patterns:

Muslim leaders today, realizing that military power and economic growth flow from technology, frequently call for speedy scientific development and a knowledge-based society. Often that call is rhetorical, but in some Muslim countries—Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Nigeria among others—official patronage and funding for science and education have grown sharply in recent years. Enlightened individual rulers, including Sultan ibn Muhammad Al-Qasimi of Sharjah, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, and others have put aside some of their vast personal wealth for such causes. No Muslim leader has publicly called for separating science from religion.

But we can be a bit more precise. In outputs, specifically peer-reviewed publications, the situation is dire:

Forty-six Muslim countries contributed 1.17% of the world's science literature, whereas 1.66% came from India alone and 1.48% from Spain. Twenty Arab countries contributed 0.55%, compared with 0.89% by Israel alone. The US NSF records that of the 28 lowest producers of scientific articles in 2003, half belong to the [57 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference].

Also the institutional independence of universities has a way to go:

Academic and cultural freedoms on campuses are highly restricted in most Muslim countries. At Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, where I teach, the constraints are similar to those existing in most other Pakistani public-sector institutions. This university serves the typical middle-class Pakistani student and [...] ranks number two among OIC universities. Here, as in other Pakistani public universities, films, drama, and music are frowned on, and sometimes even physical attacks by student vigilantes who believe that such pursuits violate Islamic norms take place. The campus has three mosques with a fourth one planned, but no bookstore.
There are other anecdotal effects of this pressure:
[O]ver time most students—particularly veiled females—have largely lapsed into becoming silent note-takers, are increasingly timid, and are less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. This lack of self-expression and confidence leads to most Pakistani university students, including those in their mid- or late-twenties, referring to themselves as boys and girls rather than as men and women.

However, I was surprised by the remaining role of women enrollments. According to PAH:

[I]t is a myth that women in Muslim countries are largely excluded from higher education. In fact, the numbers are similar to those in many Western countries: The percentage of women in the university student body is 35% in Egypt, 67% in Kuwait, 27% in Saudi Arabia, and 41% in Pakistan, for just a few examples. In the physical sciences and engineering, the proportion of women enrolled is roughly similar to that in the US.

So where do we go from here? Both TE and PAH stress that the rearward-looking cultural posture must change. But so, too, must simple preconceptions of ethnic homogeneity and inferiority. PAH reminds us,

Academics such as Henry Herbert Goddard, the well-known eugenicist, described Jews in 1913 as "a hopelessly backward people, largely incapable of adjusting to the new demands of advanced capitalist societies." His research found that 83% of Jews were "morons"—a term he popularized to describe the feeble-minded—and he went on to suggest that they should be used for tasks requiring an "immense amount of drudgery." That ludicrous bigotry warrants no further discussion, beyond noting that the powerful have always created false images of the weak.
PAH went on to point out the unavoidable conflicts between modern, corporate work-patterns and the daily rituals required of observant Muslims (5 prayers per day and a month of fasts, particularly).

Unfortunately, I found that both TE and PAH have relatively little to say about the path forward for the Muslim world. These pieces are more thought-generating than prescriptive. Personally, I agree with the concept that scientists themselves can make the very best of diplomats. The US, especially the State Department, can address this in a big way.

I suppose they're a bit distracted these days.

If you have thoughts about how to go forward, feel free to leave a comment.

15 August 2007

With allies like these...

I would direct your attention, gentle reader, to some documents declassified just today regarding our staunch ally in the war on terror, Pakistan.

The highlights include:

* August 1996: Pakistan Intelligence (ISID) "provides at least $30,000 - and possibly as much as $60,000 - per month" to the militant Kashmiri group Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA). Despite this aid, the group is reaching out to sponsors of international terrorism including Osama bin Laden for additional support, and may in the near future become a threat to Islamabad itself as well as U.S. interests. HUA contacts have hinted they "might undertake terrorist actions against civilian airliners." [Doc 10]

Now, what interests me about this is actually the timing of the release of these documents. The Executive Branch is no one-trick pony; it can classify and secure documents with arguments of executive privilege, but it can strategically declassify, just as well. I wonder if this is a case of the NSA (no, not that NSA) being used strategically? If so, will our relations with Pakistan finally change, or just move into the next phase?

Leaked cabinet documents from 10 Downing Street show three months before invading Iraq in 2003, President Bush told British PM Tony Blair that once he finished off Iraq, he planned to `go after’ Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan was in America’s cross hairs.

23 July 2007

"D'oh" in Japanese?

I wonder how "clean, safe, and plentiful" translates.,,-6788328,00.html

Note the buried leads:

"Tokyo Electric is investigating 12 more cases of possible radioactive leaks, Tsutomu Uetsuhara, general manager at the utility's nuclear department, said yesterday.
Japan has 55 reactors that generate about one-third of the country's power, making the nation the third-largest nuclear producer in the world. Tokyo Electric operates 17 reactors. "

02 July 2007

Trouble in the House

I was in Cannon a few weeks ago when I experienced my first bout of apoplectic rage. I suppose I should have expected it, but somehow I let my guard down and was sideswiped by idiocy.

In June, ITIF - a think-tank that serves the interests of the high-tech community - held a forum on research and development (R&D) trade policy. ITIF, particularly Julie Hedlund and Bob Atkinson, claim that other countries are discriminating against US technology industries in a protectionist fashion and against international law. Atkinson and Hedlund then proposed a list of actions that the US government (USG) could take to address this discrimination.

Now, they don't get loopy until you notice one of their suggestions. Most other countries, says ITIF, bear the legal costs of defending their companies' intellectual property rights in World Trade Organization (WTO) cases. The USG doesn't do that, as a rule, and lets Microsoft and other technology companies fend for themselves and fight their own legal battles. ITIF suggests that, since these companies are enforcing international law - fighting the good fight, so to speak - the USG should support Microsoft and others by defraying their legal costs. This would occur via a tax credit of 25% of US companies' legal costs in fighting WTO cases.

Alright, let's just say that we decided to give international companies this tax credit. That leads us to an interesting situation.

Here is my interchange with Atkinson at the forum (paraphrased):

KG: "Wouldn't we want to be consistent and give such a credit to press legal cases to enforce other bits of international law, like labor, environmental, and human rights regulations?"

RA: "Oh, no. I don't think any companies would want to file those kinds of cases."

KG: "But what about other organizations, like unions and non-governmental organizations? Surely those unions, NGOs and foundations would appreciate such help from Uncle Sam, right?"

RA: "See, those folks don't pay taxes. So they wouldn't be able to benefit from such a tax credit."

KG: "I think you're thinking about tax deductions, which only taxpayers can use. But you're proposing tax credits so any organization could benefit."

RA: "No, no. They wouldn't be able to benefit because they don't pay taxes. Only folks that pay taxes can get a tax credit."

And here my apoplexy began.

Now, for an ordinary Joe, I can understand such a mistake. The difference between tax credits and tax deductions is not so easy to keep straight. (Hint: poor folks that don't have to pay taxes can still benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit.) But, see Atkinson is no ordinary Joe. He's a planner by training, but has since published multiple books on economics. The idea that he would not know the difference between a deduction and a credit is laughable.

I'm not laughing.

Tax policy is a huge topic in R&D circles. Either Robert Atkinson is incompetent to speak on matters of tax policy or he is lying. Such behavior in the US Congress is unacceptable.

I can't let blatant falsehoods stand. Not like this. Hence this blog.

27 June 2007

Ugh. Another crappy blog.

I resisted blogging for so long. Years, in fact.

After witnessing a tragic event - in a House office building, of all places - I could resist speaking out no longer.

Well, it was tragic to me, at least. I'll describe it more later.

Welcome to my blog.